A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in women’s health, focusing in particular on the female reproductive system.
Experts recommend that adolescents start seeing a gynecologist while in their early teens, and continue with regular annual visits throughout menopause.
Carilion Clinic women’s health specialist Alyssa Watkins, M.D., offers five important reasons to see a gynecologist:
1. Annual Wellness Checkups
Your reproductive health is linked with your overall health in many ways. Your gynecologist can partner with your primary care physician by performing standard medical exams during your visit.
Since they specialize in women’s health, gynecologists can also:
- Do a pelvic exam to check urinary and reproductive systems
- Perform a Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer
- Do a breast exam to check for breast cancer
- Discuss any menstrual cycle irregularities
- Guide you through menopause
2. Birth Control
Women who are sexually active but do not want to become pregnant can benefit from seeing a gynecologist to learn about their birth control options. Your gynecologist will help you choose a safe and reliable method that’s right for you.
You do not need a pelvic exam to receive birth control, so this is another area where your gynecologist and primary care physician can partner with you to support your family planning goals.
Most gynecologists are also obstetricians who specialize in supporting pregnant women during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery. Every woman’s experience is different, so it is important to have a doctor by your side who knows you well and who you’re comfortable with.
For women and couples who are trying to get pregnant, gynecologists who specialize in fertility can help you increase your chances of conceiving naturally or with clinical support. Carilion Clinic’s Reproductive Medicine and Fertility team recommends consulting your provider if you are under 35 and have been trying for 12 months, or 35+ and trying for 6 months.
5. Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Support
Practicing safe sex is essential for women’s health. Your gynecologist is there to help you understand your personal and family health histories and to discuss your lifestyle so you can reduce your risk of future health problems.
If you do not already have a gynecologist, ask your primary care physician for a recommendation, or simply reach out to Carilion Women's to schedule an appointment—you don't need a referral!